If two brothers ever epitomised Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 12, about us each having different gifts, then it would surely have to be John and Charles Wesley. John was a prolific preacher and evangelist; Charles a prolific writer of hymns and songs. In their own ways they each brought many people to, and nurtured them in, their faith.
They were each radical and uncompromising in their own way; true to their respective callings and unrelenting in applying themselves to God’s work.
I have often found myself wondering whether this deep-rooted work ethic, instilled in them from infancy by their mother Susanna, might not also have been the cause of a lifetime of anguish and guilt.
I relate to this personally, coming from a family in which nobody ever appeared to sit still and just “be”. This was not a “religious” work ethic per se – I am the only Christian on my side of the family. This was, however, likely influenced by a historical religious culture which connected works with salvation.
However, much we may claim that salvation is by grace and justification is by faith, it is difficult to get far beyond this point before reaching the oft-quoted text that “faith without deeds is dead” [James 2:17].
John Wesley is reputed to have preached over 40,000 times during his lifetime and ridden more than 100,000 miles on horseback in the process. Charles Wesley wrote somewhere in the order of 9,000 hymns and songs during his adult life. By any stretch these are impressive statistics! And these were, in no way their only achievements.
Jesus was very clear what the most important commandments were; and yet he also reminded us that we are called to care for those in need. You won’t need me to quote the scripture references here.
As we grow in faith we need to keep a right balance between our relationship with God and one another, and the outworking of our faith. We need to nurture our faith and express our faith; to both love God and to reflect His love. Some communities excel in discipleship and others in serving; may we seek to find the right balance as we explore our collective calling.